Josh Hamilton is ready to go.
Ready to start playing baseball again.
Ready to play in front of the fans who loved him and hated him.
Ready to move away from two rocky seasons with the Los Angeles Angels — away from the injuries and drug relapse.
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“Today’s about moving forward with the Texas Rangers,” Hamilton said Monday, about an hour after he was traded by the Angels. “I’m back home. It feels good to be back here in Arlington.”
As much as Hamilton wanted to talk about going forward in his second go-round with the Rangers, it’s hard to imagine his future without addressing his past. He knows it, and he has reached into the past to help ensure that he doesn’t suffer another relapse like the one he had in February with cocaine.
For Hamilton, it’s about being comfortable and having a support system. That’s why he wanted to be traded home.
“I’ve learned things over the last couple of years, and I’ll take that forward and try to be a better man and father and player on the field,” Hamilton said during a news conference at Globe Life Park. “So that’s why I chose here.
“I’m just happy to be back here and want to be a part of a team who love each other and care for each other and have great chemistry and want to go out every day and give what they’ve got and leave it on the field.”
Hamilton will have Shayne Kelley return as his “accountability partner,” a term that Hamilton and general manager Jon Daniels don’t care for but one that is apt. Kelley’s primary duty is to make sure Hamilton continues to do the things that keep him from falling into the trap of addiction.
Hamilton is also back in an organization that dedicated resources to keep him from going astray. Some of that support system, beginning with former manager Ron Washington, is no longer in place, but much of it is.
The Angels fired Kelley after one season, and he didn’t have the same relationship with Angels manager Mike Scioscia that he’d had with Washington. The front office and ownership were also less supportive.
The system Hamilton will have in place with the Rangers, he said, is better than it was during his first stay with the club from 2008 to 2012.
He said that he is tested for drugs and now alcohol five times a week. He was tested three times upon being reinstated to baseball in 2006 until his third public relapse in February. Hamilton also relapsed with alcohol in 2009 and 2012.
“Between 2012 and 2015, a lot of my support system was kind of removed or kind of pushed away and other pieces added, not all by my doing,” he said. “I’ve taken it back to 2012, pre-2012 as far as having my same support group that I want to have and that I get along with and I feel like is the best for me.
“I’ve put all those pieces back in place to help me, obviously, one, not drink or use drugs, but be the guy I need to be to come back and be that for the organization and for my family.”
His baseball past is also relevant as he moves forward. Hamilton is currently injured and on the Rangers’ 15-day disabled list after shoulder surgery Feb. 3. He will arrive Tuesday at extended spring training in Surprise, Ariz., for 10 days of workouts and games before joining Triple A Round Rock.
The Rangers expect to activate him no sooner than mid-May, Daniels said. The Rangers believe they will have a productive player if Hamilton can stay healthy. Looking at his baseball past, that’s a big if.
“I expect him to be healthy,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We know if he’s healthy and his head is in the game, he’s in the right place, we know what he’s capable to do. It’s one of the best players for me when he’s right and he’s up there playing 100 percent.”
If Hamilton is more productive than he was with the Angels, when he hit only 31 homers in two seasons, the Rangers will be getting a steal.
A source said that they will pay Hamilton less than $7 million over three years, though he can opt out after two seasons.
Though the official wording of the deal calls for the Rangers to send a player to be named or cash to the Angels, a source said that’s only a formality. The Rangers won’t send either, and will get cash from the Angels to help pay Hamilton.
The Angels, meanwhile, are paying more than $60 million to make Hamilton go away after they said he reneged on a five-year, $125 million contract they used to lure him away from the Rangers in December 2012.
Owner Arte Moreno got ugly in dealing with Hamilton, pushing him toward a Rangers reunion. It made Hamilton realize that, in hindsight, he should have never left.
“He knew what the deal was when he signed me, hands down,” said Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP. “He knew what he was getting. He knew what the risks were. He knew all those things.
“Looking back on it now, if I could have changed the past I would. But I can’t. I can only learn from it. Probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere; probably would have stayed here. But I can’t change that.”
Instead, Hamilton is ready to move forward. But there can’t be much of a future without his past being front and center.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760